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CPS students, teachers address bussing issues, like multiple transfers and erratic bus frequency

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Cory Sharber
/
WVXU
Students were prompted to write down bussing solutions, challenges, and what's working during a community charrette organized by the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers and Youth For Equity & Justice at City Hall on May 16, 2022.

The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers (CFT) and Youth for Equity & Justice held a "charrette" at City Hall Monday to discuss bussing issues and getting to school on-time. About a dozen Cincinnati Public Schools students were on hand to take part.

Students discussed the challenges they've faced over the previous year, possible solutions going forward, and what's working now. Some of the issues they've dealt with include bus frequency being inadequate and having to take multiple transfers.

Lawrence Thomas is a seventh grader at the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA). This was his first year getting on Metro buses by himself. He takes a Metro bus from Silverton to SCPA, which caused problems with his sleep schedule.

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Cory Sharber
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WVXU
Here's a look at some of the notes students took during the charrette.

"I get up early," Thomas said. "Depending on what time I go to bed, I don't get a lot of sleep, so just falling asleep on the bus and then, say if I have testing all day, I'm sleeping in the afternoon, too, and I might fall asleep on the bus."

Students weren't the only ones weighing in Monday night, so were family members. Karen Durant-Thomas is Lawrence's grandmother. She says the situation causes her stress as well. Lawrence is still learning the bus system and has occasionally missed his stops and she's had to retrieve him.

"He's 13, and he's had to navigate Downtown Cincinnati and all the drama and all the things that go on in Downtown Cincinnati," Durant-Thomas said. "That's hard enough for an adult, [let alone] a 13-year-old."

Teachers are also being affected by transportation issues within the district. Mary Webb teaches math at Withrow University High School. She says some students have been missing their first bell, which puts them behind.

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Cory Sharber
/
WVXU
Students sat at tables in Room 115 of Cincinnati City Hall to discuss what they've experienced over the academic year.

"It is not a student issue. It's an adult transportation issue and that's the challenge that we also have to reeducate our teachers about," Webb said. "This is not a student issue, and students shouldn't be held accountable for not being there or not getting the assignments done. We have to extend more grace to give them time to get the assignments done."

The Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) Board of Education recently approved a change for transportation that will allow 7th and 8th grade students to ride yellow school buses to and from school. Roughly 298 buses would be needed for the $30.2 million plan.

The board is also tabling options from the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) before the current contract with the district runs out Jun. 30. SORTA ended student Metro bus routes right as school was about to begin for the 2021-22 school year. SORTA says due to a driver shortage at the time, the decision was necessary to avoid delaying or reducing services to the general public. According to media reports, CPS' director of pupil transportation at the time didn't renew the contract for XTRA routes. Board members said they weren't aware of this decision.

Last November, SORTA announced Metro would not exercise "contract option years" after Jun. 30. In a letter, SORTA CEO and General Manager Darryl Haley said CPS "solicited bids" from transportation service providers – including Metro – for chartered bus service. If Metro submitted a bid, it would violate a federal regulation that prevents agencies receiving federal subsidies from unfairly competing against private bus companies.

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.